Tourists tired of coughing up the airport departure tax may soon find the fee hidden in the cost of their plane tickets.
Following a lobbying effort by travel agents who say travelers are irritated by airport departure fees, the operator of Cambodia’s two international airports has agreed to divert public attention from the unpopular levies by incorporating them into airline fares.
Société Concessionnaire de l’Aéroport (SCA), which sets the level of and collects the passenger service charges, agreed during recent three-party talks with the Ministry of Tourism and travel agent representatives to disguise the collection of the fees by including them in air fares, according to Cambodian Association of Travel Agents president Ho Vandy.
Foreign visitors generally resented shelling out the dough at the airport departure gate, he said, and many have complained over how the money was used. Signs posted in the airport by SCA have said that the money was contributing to national development.
“Nobody is monitoring or regulating the income SCA receives and it is not fair to tourism service operators,” said Ho Vandy.
SCA communications and marketing director Khek Norinda said the passenger levy was “a source of revenue for the SCA and is mainly dedicated to marginal costs such as facilities upgrades for better comfort, safety and security.”
National Association of Tourism Enterprises president Moeung Sonn said he had raised the issue of passenger complaints about the fee many times before but had always been ignored.
He noted that Cambodia’s international airports provided scant services yet levied higher fees than those of other countries in the region. For international flights, he noted, Thailand’s airports charged a passenger service charge of around $22, while Vietnam airports charged $14 and the Laos airport only $10.
“It’s a good idea to include the airport fee in the ticket price, and most countries are doing this now,” Moeung Sonn said. “But if there is no oversight, I’m concerned that SCA and the airlines might conspire to increase air fares, which will annoy travelers even more. We just ask for transparency in the management of the airport.”
Khek Norinda said passengers were charged for using the airport and airport services, including the costs of special security measures instituted following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US. He added that the passenger service charges also included $2.27 worth of value-added tax (VAT) collected by SCA on behalf of the government.
Additional talks among involved parties in the coming weeks would work toward applying the fee to domestic air fares first, said Khek Norinda.
“That could be further extended to international flight tickets,” he said. “We plan to implement this scheme as soon as possible.”